A powerful Russian leader surely was not mentioned on the first leg of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ visit to the nation’s capital. Expect that to change as the Penguins prepare to face Alex Oveckin and the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night, a matchup coming 24 hours after the reigning Stanley Cup champs were feted at the White House.
Pittsburgh has dual concerns entering the latest chapter of the Sidney Crosby-Ovechkin rivaly — slowing down Washington’s offense and its Russian superstar captain. The Penguins finally have something to build on, blanking Nashville in a Stanley Cup Finals rematch after they were outscored 15-5 in their first two games. Conversely, the Capitals are coming off their first loss, blowing a two-goal lead in an overtime defeat at Tampa Bay. Ovechkin was kept off the scoresheet in the setback after a scorching start in which he pumped in seven goals in the team’s first two wins.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN
ABOUT THE PENGUINS (1-1-1): After getting pierced for 11 goals in his first two appearances of the season, goaltender Matt Murray earned his first victory with a 26-save shutout of Nashville, although he praised his teammates. “We weren’t happy with either of the games prior to this,” Murray said. “This is our first really good team effort and I think every single guy in the room stepped up.” Defenseman Ian Cole lost some teeth after taking a slap shot to the mouth Saturday and will not be available, but forward Patric Hornqvist (hand) could make his season debut.
ABOUT THE CAPITALS (2-0-1): T.J. Oshie scored twice and set up another tally as Washington built a pair of two-goal leads at Tampa Bay, but he lamented the fact that the team took its foot off the pedal. “Early in the season here, that’s a learning moment for us,” said Oshie, who had 10 points in four regular-season games versus Washington last season. “I feel like every year you kind of get that same thing. Once you get a lead, you start sitting back. So we’ll get that out of our game.” Evgeny Kuznetsov has eight assists, including on each of Ovechkin’s goals.
1. Washington has won the Presidents’ Trophy the past two seasons, only to get bounced by Pittsburgh in the conference semifinals both years.
2. Penguins C Evgeni Malkin scored five goals in four regular-seaon meetings versus Washington in 2016-17.
3. The Capitals have surrendered 111 shots on goal in the first three games.
PREDICTION: Capitals 4, Penguins 3